Album: opus spongebobicum
Author: John Cavanagh
Publication: foxy digitalis
Date: 9/25/2008

I’ve written of Frank Rothkamm before in these pages, last time it was about his recording of a group of Yamaha electric organs and, looking back at the review now, I see my comment that his playing of instruments with microtonal pitch variations on “Just Three Organs” might drive some listeners to distraction. I suspect the same could be said of this new work, although for very different reasons, but personally, I love it!

As a catalyst to “Opus Spongebobicum”, German born Rothkamm has been inspired by one of the essential piano works by his great countryman Ludwig Van Beethoven, although he insists that his piece is no attempt to create a new “Diabelli Variations”.

Betthoven was commissioned to write a set of variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli and he created 33 of these over a four year period. Analysts have tried to find patterns in these across time and it strikes me that the late Robert Anton Wilson could’ve come up with a very good book of Illuminatus style conspiracy theories on this very topic. Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s sometimes wayward biographer, added to the mystery by claiming that the composer was initially derisive towards Diabelli’s original theme and that he described it as a schusterfleck, which translates as a cobbler’s patch.

This reference to shoe repair with something square and absorbent serves as an important signpost for Frank Rothkamm. After all, who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Absorbent and yellow and porous is he… Spongebob Squarepants!

What we have here is a set of 40 piano variations on the theme for Stephen Hillenburg’s lovable cartoon creation. The concept alone is inspired, Rothkamm’s variations, both instantly recognizable or highly abstract, held my interest throughout thanks to his dynamic pianism and his sleevenote is enjoyably descriptive.

Now to the question of adding a score number to end this review. If the prospect of this album already has you recoiling, you might think a zero is more appropriate. For me, it has to be…. 10/10

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